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Don't Let Me Fall

By , Austintown, OH
About a half mile from my house, there's a bridge. The summer before my junior year, during my fitness craze, I often ran across that bridge. Sometimes, when I stopped to catch my breath,I would lean over the railing clutching my sides and watch the cars fly by underneath me. Although it wasn't a huge drop to the ground below, maybe 30 feet, I always made sure to never get too close to the edge.

I can't remember a time before I was terrified of heights. I suppose it exists, in a time before I was taught what fear was. A time when all I knew was the radiance of my mothers face and the comfort of her arms. But once I grew up, unlike most children, I hated when my father pulled me on top of his shoulders. Piggyback rides were the extent of my comfort zone and even then, it was pushing it. Stairs, ledges, high windows, all were a challenge to me. It wasn't the height I was afraid of, it was the fear of falling. Of being pulled by gravity to the harsh, unforgiving earth; my body so soft and fragile against it.

My past is the reason I could never have imagined myself here. It's also the reason why I am. Holding my breath, I glance down. It's later in the evening, almost sunset, and there's hardly any cars out. For as long as I've been out here, only 6 headlights have broken through my deep contemplation. None have noticed me. A breeze skitters across my skin and although it's gentle, I shiver and goosebumps rise. I've thought about coming to The Bridge many times before, but until now it's never been so bad and I've never been so brave. I wonder if I can even call it bravery. Can I? Can I use that word, considering what I'm doing? Why I'm here?

Inhaling deeply, I slowly raise my arms to the railing. As I lift my knee, I can't help thinking it's the exact same position I'd be in if I was stretching for a run. For a moment, I concentrate on the feel of my muscle under my skin, slowly stretching, working, almost as if it knows this is it's final race. I shift my weight to my right foot, now on the edge just below the railing. Pulling myself up with my arms, I lift my other leg. Rising up, my legs wobbly, I straighten my arms, fighting for balance. When I gain control, I try to even my erratically beating heart as I close my eyes. Falling is a funny feeling. There's nothing quite like it. You're on solid ground, safe, secure, when suddenly you're not. You're flying; airborne. Through-out your life, this instant, this split second you're in the air will be the only moment in your life when you're completely free. Not bound by emotions, laws, or gravity. You touch, taste, feel nothing but the sun and feeling of complete weightlessness. It lasts only a second though before you're sinking, crashing, losing your wings.

A car honk startles me; I gasp and lose my footing. I fall.

Backward, not forward like I was expecting. But a split second before my body hits the ground behind me, I realize what happened and I'm grateful.





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